Be Myself?

Hannah Arendt wrote about this in Between Past and Future: We are always subject to social pressures. When parents reject any form of discipline of the child, in fear of destroying their childhood innocence, of tyrannizing them, they are only leaving children to the tyranny of the larger social group. I can see this clearly in my own life: for Boys—the pressure to game and mess around (else you’re too much of a nerd); for Girls—I can only speculate here because I am not a girl, but I do know that females are more prone to social pressure than males—perhaps the pressure to dress in such and such a way, to do such and such things, to party, to drink, to smoke (I frankly do not know)?

These are ways for teenagers to assert their independent identity against their parents. But only for them to submit to an inauthentic rebellion.

I find the Roman concept of Persona helpful here. Persona is the social role that we have to assume in order for us to be a “person,” a citizen in contrast to bare human life. (Bio, in Agamben’s jargon, rather than zoe/homo sacer.) It is in assuming our persona that we can add our little twists onto it. Without the persona that constraints us, we would be lost in “the dizziness of freedom.” This is one concept of authenticity. Authenticity as a Nieztschean/Heideggerian resolute affirmation of your fate as a person. To assume such a role without any illusions, knowing full well that one is constrained—in contrast with our normal fantasies of who we are, what we are doing, how others are perceiving me, etc.

But need we identify with our mask? Carl Jung posits a Self that is the unity of the persona and the shadow and the anima and all the other archetypes and personality complexes within us. It would be nice for this to be the case. But what warrants him to elevate the Self as the locus of authenticity, rather than the persona or the shadow? It seems like we are always playing a game (in the Wittengsteinian sense), even when we are alone—else why would you wear clothes when you’re living by yourself? There seems to be a primordial Big Other that we have to perform for, in relation to which we define our position—hence why “there is no sexual relationship”—each relationship is a relationship with the small other mediated by the Big Other. What this means is that our self is constituted by others. We seem to be this structuralist subject who is constantly being pushed by the chain of significations (even in our unconscious) without any freedom, hence no authenticity.

But perhaps in this closed system there is always something open that we can seize. And that is anxiety.

Do not be yourself. Be anxiety. Let anxiety be anxious.

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